|Katie Meyer in photo by Lindsay Radnedge,
SU Athletics (LA Times)
Stanford soccer player Katie Meyer was a defender in soccer and in life.
In soccer, she defended the goal, and in some kind of altercation off the playing field in the past year, she defended a teammate.
She got in trouble for it. Maybe she told her parents initially, but she could not tell them about a development in her case on March 1, just three months before she was to graduate.
Did Stanford threaten not to let her walk on graduation day? Or not to let her graduate?
Her mother spoke about the surprising tragedy in an interview on CNN:
“…the only thing we can come up with that triggered something,” she said, was some form of disciplinary action at school. Katie recently had defended a teammate on campus over an incident and she was facing repercussions because of it, her parents said, pointing to that as the possible turning point for their daughter.
One issue is the pressure placed on student athletes as discussed by CNN in this report on March 13.
But the greater issue is how Stanford handled the process of “disciplinary action.” Someone in the administration sent Katie an email hours before she took her own life.
Katie’s mother Gina Meyer added a few more details in the Today Show interview, as reported on Today.com: “We have not seen that email yet,” Gina said. “She had been getting letters for a couple months. This letter was kind of the final letter that there was going to be a trial or some kind of something. This is the only thing that we can come up with that triggered something.”
Once a child turns 18, schools and therapists do not let parents know anything about their lives: their grades, their health, their mental health, their legal crises. They are considered adults, no matter how fragile they may be emotionally.
Katie’s parents wish they had had a chance to intervene between the Stanford administration and Katie, the report by Today.com continues:
The Meyer family hopes to start a conversation about opening up communication between parents and college administrators. Parents often aren’t alerted about what’s happening with their children because most university students are over 18 and considered adults, but the Meyers feel they missed a chance to potentially save their daughter if they only knew about what she was going through.
I’ve been in the position of her parents, worried about a student but unable to know anything or intervene.
My daughters somehow survived the terrible twenties; my heart aches for Katie and her parents and her two sisters.
All college students face pressures, but Katie is the fourth Stanford student to take her own life in 2021 and 2022, according to the Palo Alto Daily Post:
Meyer, a senior majoring in International Relations, is at least the third Stanford student to die by suicide in the last 13 months. Medical student Rose Wong, 25, died in her dorm on Feb. 2, 2021. Undergraduate Jacob Meisel, 23, was killed by a train in Palo Alto on Aug. 2. And law student Dylan Simmons, 27, was found dead in his dorm on Jan. 20. The cause of Simmons’ death hasn’t been released.
I blame Stanford University for Katie’s death. Difficult news should not come by email. Someone could have invited Katie to her office, explained what decision the university had come to, and offered ways to mitigate the consequences.
In the past several months, the administration should have brought Katie’s parents into the problem or at least provided emotional and legal counseling to her. Apparently they did neither.
All universities and other institutions protect their status and hush up issues. I remember when I was teaching at Whittier College near Los Angeles in October, 1987, and a 5.9 earthquake occurred nearby.
“No problem–classes will continue tomorrow” the administration announced though there were three deaths, five related deaths, and 200 injuries in LA County. There was a 5.2 aftershock three days later.
Stanford’s instinct after Katie’s death is to protect its reputation and its administration. Parents, alumni, and the public need to demand changes in the way disciplinary issues are handled.
As an alumna myself, I know Stanford is a jock school. Athletics is a very big deal at this college and a big source of income, but we must protect student athletes who get into some kind of trouble.
Did Katie push or punch another student in her defense of her teammate? Stanford should have reported the incident to the police, who would have recorded the incident and been required to offer legal counsel. Her parents would have known.
Whatever the initial event, Stanford tried to handle the problem through its own administrative channels, resulting in a months-long period of building pressure and secrecy.
That was wrong, and Stanford must change. We must call the university to account.
If there is a misdemeanor or crime of some sort, let the local police and judicial system handle it–not the university’s Office of Student Affairs.
Keeping the whole thing inside the college deprives the student of resources available to persons charged with a crime. It isolates the student from legal and psychological support, and it tempts the college to engage in coverup.
Below are further comments made on the website of the Palo Alto Daily Post:
“The university owes it to Katie to be truthful, even if it hurts their image.” – RG, March 2.
“Stanford has this student discipline system that includes kangaroo courts in which the accused has the burden of proof. No wonder she was upset. Anyone who is falsely accused and can’t fight the accusations is depressed. Hopefully the administration will put an end to this sham court, but I won’t hold my breath.” – Class of 19, March 5.
“Many elite universities have a sham student conduct process and there is little in the way of fairness to the student. It is difficult to truly grasp until you live through it. The pressure on a student is indescribable. It is definitely a “guilty until proven innocent” approach where a student is barraged with constant letters — repeatedly accused of even the smallest of infractions and threatened with probation, suspension and ultimately expulsion. There is little in the way of due process and the student conduct process typically ignores many of the basic rules of law that we expect from our legal system. All of a sudden, a student feels like an outcast. Those that are innocent feel so cornered that they capitulate and admit to the charges. What many students don’t realize is that if they intend to pursue graduate, law, medical school is that they will forever have to disclose this transgression on all sorts of future applications. You can’t even bring an outside attorney to these hearings. If you find yourself or your child in a similar situation, seek competent legal advice immediately. You can’t afford not to. It is amazing that this occurs at institutions of “higher learning” in this country with particularly those with supposedly top tier law schools. I sadly speak from direct experience. I can understand how this event may have caused a deep sense of despair for Katie. My heart breaks for her family. For every Dean out there involved in the student conduct process, it’s time to revamp and change they way that students are treated and parents or designated guardians should very much be part of the process. Surely, just like you can authorize medical release of records the same should hold true for educational records.” – S. Gonzales, March 6.
“Thank you for enlightening us with your post…” – REM/TA, March 7.
“I wonder whether Katie was considering a career in the CIA or FBI after her graduation in a few months? (It was stated that she was interested in international relations, specifically security). The pending disciplinary action “could” definitely “ruin” those future plans for her. This is so very sad. I wish she would have told her parents of Stanford’s pending disciplinary actions and showed them the emails. They could have sought legal counsel for her and supported her through this situation. Hoping the family gets to the bottom of what happened. I’m so very sorry for your loss, Meyer Family.” – Anonymous, March 8.
“I can’t agree more. These elite schools’ disciplinary systems (especially, Stanford and Princeton) usually have a committee of 5 members: 3 are students while 2 are professors. The students in the committee are just sophomores or juniors with few experiences and can’t go against professors in the committee. So the decision of the committee of 5 is often led by one professor with a loud voice and strong opinion. The committee is supposed to make a decision based on “clear and persuasive” evidence, but its definition is any set of evidence that the committee “FEELS” clear and persuasive. If the committee feels a blurry image of an animal is a cat, then the image becomes clear and persuasive evidence that it is a cat while it is, in fact, a dog. A student can appeal to the judicial committee. The problem is that the judicial committee members are also professors who will, of course, be on the professor’s side. Even more serious is that the membership rotates every 2 or 3 years. Thus the members of the judicial committee are not EVEN familiar with the school’s written “rights, rule, and responsibilities” and don’t carry any responsibilities for their decisions. Even if their decision is found to be wrong, just like Katie’s case, nobody in the committees will be fired, and nobody will be responsible. Students cannot bring an outside lawyer, and thus there is literally no way to fight against an unfair decision and unreasonable process when falsely accused. The system would be so much better if there is an office of student integrity and if only the employees in the office — who are familiar with the written rules, will interpret rules as written, and will be responsible/fired when found wrong — handle cases. This is the system used in many state schools.” – CoDNeeds Change, March 7.
“And Stanford hides behind confidentiality which hides what could have been a biased process finding Katie guilty. The school is the judge and jury in the process accountable to no party unless Katie’s parents hire a lawyer and find a way to take Stanford into a court of law. But before that Stanford will try to do a deal with Katie’s lawyers that will keep their process confidential with maybe her parents knowing but keeping their investigation and the likely reason for Katie’s death unknown to the community. No transparency or accountability for her death. Probably a Title 9 investigation.” – John, March 7.
“If the settlement is kept confidential, Stanford will never feel any community pressure to change its ways. I hope this isn’t swept under the rug like so many other problems at Stanford!” – Peter K., March 7.
“I’m hoping Katie shared her pending disciplinary action from Stanford with some of her friends, fellow students, professors, coaches and teammates.
They might be able to shed some light on her state of mind?
Also, the teammate “she stuck up for” in the altercation would probably have much information.
Did the person whom Katie had the altercation with, have friends in high places at Stanford?
Does this person’s family donate a lot of money to Stanford?
Was this disciplinary action a personal vendetta to ruin Katie’s future?
Was Katie being threatened?
Was Katie told what was going to happen to her?
Was she afraid of what might happen?
These are questions that should be explored.
Also, even though Katie would not be allowed an attorney at the Stanford University hearing, legal counsel could advise her on “how best” to answer questions and perhaps help her to compose a letter to read to the court. Or, better yet, help her send a letter prior to the school court. hearing. Perhaps advise her on writing an apology letter?
A young woman with so much to offer the world. So so sad! RIP dear Katie.” – Anonymous, March 8.
“Stanford should show more responsibility.
Frankly, sometimes I have the feeling that being at this university is like being in a cult. If someone does not behave, not complying with their regulations, the person is out, in a very cold way (eg https://padailypost.com/2019/12/06/dad-takes-his-own-life-after-meeting-with-stanford-boss-family-fears-it-will-lose-home/). This university should change its philosophy as everyone is a human being including the board of trustess. I doubt they are all perfect. In general, some universities have somehow lost their real purpose, to help the world with a big heart…” – How many more students suicides, March 5.
“Hope you guys stay on this story. Stanford has some explaining to do. The few comments above describing university disciplinary boards – Bolshevik style show trials – are spot on.” – Alvin, March 8.
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